The new 3,100 square foot Washington Square Park Park House, designed by BKSK Architects, is a deceptively modest building nestled in one of New York’s most vibrant public spaces. It houses substantial program: public restrooms, offices, storage, and unique mechanical spaces, most notably the pumps that operate the park’s historic display fountain. The building’s subtle curvature and natural material composition help minimize its intrusiveness in the park. This single-story structure is articulated with a colonnade made of New York Champlain Valley granite with white, pink, and green tones and a warm cedar trellis, rendering it more like a park pavilion structure than an administration building. Over time the trellis will become covered with flowering vines.
Designed to have a small footprint, both architecturally and environmentally, its systems include a solar panel array and ground source heat pumps that eliminate bulky on-site equipment as well as noise pollution to avoid distracting visitors from the landscapes of the park. Combined with passive design strategies, such as a high performance building envelope, and photovoltaic panels that offset 34% of the electrical load, the implementation of a ground source heat pump system has resulted in the park house using 55% less energy than a comparable building with a conventional system. These features and others helped the project achieve LEED Platinum certification.
Other key sustainable elements of this project include maximized daylight, the specification of low- or no-VOC building materials, and the use of locally sourced stone and reclaimed wood. All of these strategies help to minimize environmental impact while addressing the needs of both the NYC Parks staff and the public.
The Chicago Athenaeum, Green Good Design Award, 2017
AIANY COTE, Merit Award, 2016
Society of American Registered Architects (SARA) National Design Award of Excellence, 2016
Re-thinking the Future Sustainability Awards, Second Award, 2016
AIA New York State Citation for Design, 2015
Palladio Award for New Design and Construction, 2015
ENR Best Projects Merit Award, 2014
“Winners of the 2016 AIANY COTE Awards Announced,” Architectural Record, October 2016
“Washington Square Park House Is No Ordinary Public Restroom,” Wall Street Journal, December 2015
“The Calming Effect of a Building,” Parks & Rec Business, June 2015
“A Quiet Park House,” Traditional Building, June 2015
“Finally! Officials and kids cut ribbon in renewed park,” The Villager, June 2014
“Washington Square Park redo a hit: architecture review,” The Real Deal, April 2014
“In loo of behind a bush: City reveals Washington Square’s Eco-friendly bathrooms,” New York Observer, April 2014
NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation – landscape; Weidlinger Associates – structural; Buro Happold – MEP & lighting design; Michael Wein – civil
Photos by Jeffrey Totaro